HONG KONG: Chanel has been denounced on social media for appropriating Indigenous Australian culture by producing a US$2,000 boomerang derided as the ultimate in useless status symbols.
The wood and resin item is part of the luxury haute couture brand’s latest spring-summer 2017 pre-collection, under “other accessories”.
Jeffree Star, a US make-up artist with a sizeable following on social media, brought it to wider attention when he displayed his own on Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram on Monday.
“Having so much fun with my new @Chanel boomerang,” he tweeted with the emoji for the OK symbol. The absence of hashtags to denote sponsored content, as demanded by the Federal Trade Commission in the US, indicates he paid for the boomerang himself.
More than 86,000 people liked his photo of the inexplicable luxury item on Instagram, where there was a heated debate about Chanel’s appropriation of Indigenous Australian culture.
Nearly 2,300 comments were posted in three hours, some by users who identified as Aboriginal Australians who said they found the Chanel boomerang offensive.
One person wrote that it “humiliates a whole culture”.
“I am from Australia and I am offended that a company would make a joke out of something that was used as a weapon for survival.”
Nathan Sentence, an Indigenous project officer at the Australian Museum, said the Chanel boomerang is an example of how Western society tried to simplify Indigenous Australian culture and knowledge to “cliche objects”.
“It is no better than the fake inauthentic Aboriginal art from Thailand... except this is much pricier. At A$1,930, it costs nearly 10 per cent of the average income of Indigenous Australians.”
In a statement, Chanel said it was “extremely committed to respecting all cultures, and regrets that some may have felt offended.”
A Brisbane rapper, the Gurang/Nugigi woman Kaylah Truth, tweeted incredulously at the pricetag: “That @Chanel boomerang better be able to return even after knocking me a kangaroo and Chanel CEO for lunch.”
Nayuka Gorrie, a writer and activist, tweeted: “When I think about Aboriginal culture, I think @Chanel”. She added: “Have decided to save for the next three years so I can connect with my culture via @Chanel.”
Gorrie said the item was “so wrong it is almost absurd”, when Indigenous Australians are the most disadvantaged people in Australia and have to fight to preserve their cultures.
“Having a luxury brand swoop in, appropriate, sell our technologies and profit from our cultures for an absurd amount of money is ridiculous and hurtful. If Chanel truly wants to respect Aboriginal cultures, the first place they should start is to discontinue this product and issue an apology. Perhaps the next step would be supporting existing black designers.”
Beyond offending Indigenous people, the existence of a Chanel boomerang prompted questions about who would buy it.
“Is a Chanel BOOMERANG necessary?” wondered one Twitter user.
Many categorised it as “extra” – modern parlance for over-the-top.
Some expressed disquiet at the existence of such an item.
One Twitter user characterised it as “stupid s*** rich people buy”.
Chanel has sold boomerangs since 2006, Fairfax Media reported.
In early 2013, British Vogue reported on the luxury house’s new “sporting accessories”. “We’d find it hard to throw anything Chanel away, but thankfully this boomerang would come straight back.”
The “other accessories” in the spring-summer 2017 pre-collection includes a set of three tennis balls (US$570), a racket (US$2,220) and a set of beach paddles and balls (US$4,860), all adorned with the coveted back-to-back Cs.
The price for the most sizeable item, a standup paddleboard, is given as “available upon request”. -- SCMP
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